Black History Month: The Black Panther
King T’Challa of Wakanda shows off his incomparable skills!
Celebrate Black History Month by delving into the first appearances of Marvel’s most prominent African and African-American characters on Marvel Unlimited!
When it comes to prominent Marvel characters to spotlight during Black History Month, King T’Challa of Wakanda jumps to the very top of the list. In addition to being one of the most famous African characters, he also holds the record as the first major black super hero from a mainstream comic company.
Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1966’s FANTASTIC FOUR #52, The Black Panther showed his impressive skills right off the bat by sending a high-tech, Vibranium-powered sky-ship to pick up the FF for their first trip to Wakanda. Before long we got our first look at the great African nation where some tribal traditions carry over into modern times in the most technologically advanced society on the planet.
Upon arriving, the Fantastic Four plus Johnny Storm’s college roommate Wyatt Wingfoot landed and immediately found themselves thrown into a battle with The Black Panther, who quickly bested all except for the unexpected Mr. Wingfoot. Between his peoples’ weapons and his own skills, Black Panther nearly took out Marvel’s first family, but Wingfoot acted as a wild card, throwing a wrench in the plans and ending the hunt.
In the following issue, T’Challa explained Wakandan tradition, including the role Vibranium plays in their society and the passing of the Black Panther mantel. The history lesson came to a halting stop when Klaw attacked. While the FF took on his sinister sound-created constructs, the Panther faced the villain on his own and walked away the victor.
After the battle, Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch and The Thing encouraged T’Challa to keep at the hero game. He pledged to use his resources to defend all of humanity, a vow we’ve seen followed in the ensuing 51 years. Black Panther eventually teamed up with Captain America which led directly to him joining the Avengers, which prompted him to take on the identity of a teacher named Luke Charles to experience black life in America.
Not content to only play a part on a team, T’Challa has also anchored ongoing series written and drawn by the likes of Jack Kirby, Christopher Priest, Reginald Hudlin, John Romita Jr., Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Chris Sprouse, and many other top-notch talents. Each and every one of those comics shows the complexity of this hero who constantly struggles with his responsibilities to his kingdom and the world at large. They say that heavy is the head that wears the crown, but that’s got nothing on the Panther mask!
Though T’Challa remains the Black Panther we’ve seen the most throughout the years, other Wakandan warriors have donned the mask as well. During World War II, Captain America went toe to toe with T’Challa’s grandfather Azzari. He passed the mantle on to T’Challa’s father T’Chaka, but he died at the hands of Klaw. After his death, T’Chaka’s brother S’Yan took over, but lost the honor in ritual battle with T’Challa. Later on, a New York City cop named Kasper Cole used a discarded costume to become the Panther himself. T’Challa didn’t take kindly to the play, but did train Cole as White Tiger. A few years later, T’Challa fell in battle to Doctor Doom leaving his sister Shuri to take over. After healing up, T’Challa returned to the duties at the same time as Shuri who eventually died defending Wakanda right before Secret Wars. Now she’s back as something new in the pages of BLACK PANTHER!
Tomorrow we honor Ororo Munroe, the wildly powerful and incredibly skilled leader of many an X-Men team more widely known as Storm.
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